Kim Burrell Talks New Album
Kim Burrell is arguably one of the best, if not the best, voices in the world. With a career spanning nearly 30 years and everyone from Beyoncé to Mariah Carey claiming that her voice has inspired them, she has become somewhat of a vocal Bible for most singers. As the daughter of preachers, Kim was raised in church and has remained committed to sharing the Gospel not only through music, but most recently as a pastor. Ironically, most who’ve come to revere her singing range the genres of Blues to Hip – Hop. She has managed to transcend the boundaries of genre without compromising the integrity of her gift or her message. Her album, Everlasting Life, can be deemed a classic Gospel record and for good reason. After releasing several albums and performing a series of guest duets, one of her most popular being a soul stirring rendition of “I Look to You” with her dear friend, the late Whitney Houston, Kim is back with “A Different Place”! Her new album sticks to her signature sound and showcases her unique vocals, and even introduces us to Kim Burrell ‘the executive producer’. Check out Heed’s interview with the vocal legend as she talks about everything from her new album to coping with the loss of her mother, and what advice she has for aspiring artists!
Heed Magazine: So you’re new single, “Thank You Jesus (That’s What He’s Done)” is an amazing record! It’s funky, it’s groovy and it’s very moving! Who produced this new project?
Kim Burrell: Me! I had more involvement in the production and intricacies of it then I had before. The truth of the matter is, I’m not a huge fan of recording. I love to sing, but I don’t like to record necessarily. It’s tedious, it’s repetitive, it’s redundant and it bores me out of my mind! I’ve learned to adjust because it is a part of the professionalism of the lifestyle of a recording. I’ve become older and I have much more of a desire for what it is that I really want to hear. I’ve always been kind of shy and non-trusting of myself because I’m so creative and I’ll change in a split second. But this time, I trust me enough to know what I want to hear so I’m going to have something to say.
Heed Magazine: How do you think you’ve grown from your first project, which people still listen to like it came out yesterday, up until now?
Kim Burrell: I think I’ve been able to embrace the temperament of the music industry and find myself comfortable in my own skin. I’ve had many experiences in the music field and it’s been 29 years exactly. I have taken things in stride and then I’ve taken some things by force. It takes a lot to adjust to a world that already existed long before you got in and finding your own voice and sticking to it. Gospel music is very intentional and for it to have been around for as long as it has, I’ve just seen myself growing into the better me. I probably credit my growth to my spiritual side. Everything spiritual has inspired me to project differently, hear differently, sing differently…
Heed Magazine: You sing, you’re a pastor, you’re a mom, you travel! How do you manage to balance it all and still sound good?
Kim Burrell: [Laughs] Get some rest and do my best to stay focused and keep my intention on what the important things are. Keeping a clean slate mentally and just being true to the soul, hearing from God and praying. I keep my inner man right because it’s so many challenges out there. I’ve just learned to assess things according to my temperament in the spirit and keep it rolling!
Heed Magazine: You mentioned that you’ve been in the industry for 29 years. I know that Essence honored you this year during their annual festival. How was the moment of being honored by your peers in different genres of music?
Kim Burrell: It was rewarding. It was so hopeful to me! It was inspiring and encouraging! You know, a lot of people think you aren’t successful until someone awards you. I do what I do for the ‘reward’ not the ‘award’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received some awards, but I felt blessed and rewarded by God that so many people have been paying attention to the heart of what I do, so much so that they are inspired. Even though they are extremely talented, that my talent has been able to penetrate them in some way enough to pay homage meant so very much. It meant so very much to see Lalah [Hathaway] and Chrisette [Michelle] and all of them stop and come over. These people had shows and they stopped to come over. It meant so very much.
Heed Magazine: I know so many people revere what you do as a singer and it was great to hear Chrisette Michelle mention how encouraging you were to her in the early stages of her career. Who were some of the people that you looked up to vocally, but also were encouraging to you?
Kim Burrell: Who kicked it off for me was Walter Hawkins. Many years ago, when I was very young we were doing an event in Chicago. We were all riding in the limo together. Walter Hawkins was so present, he was kind, he was quiet and he said to me, “Kim, I just think the gift you have is so unique and so special.” He said simply, “Kim, whatever you do, say anointed and stay prayerful.” He meant so much to me and I miss him so much. He was not only a flower and a genius but he had the heart of God. He was so balanced and he taught me so much indirectly. So many people have been very nice and have embraced me. It’s been good.
Heed Magazine: What is one of your favorite songs on this project?
Kim Burrell: It’s called “Father I Stretch”. When people listen to that in their private time it’s going to mess them up really deep! It did that to me when I was recording and I had to stop and let God bless me. I was reflecting on how God brought me through the pain of losing my mother. To have to live through that every day is a very painful thing. During ‘Father I Stretch’, I was recording and thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing a recording without my mother…” I was able to finish recording and then get on the phone with her. It’s like after 29 years of traveling and you mean to tell me I have to get off of this plane and can’t call her? Do you not know that even after she died that that habit was still so strong in my life that I got off of a plane and without thinking began to dial her number. Oh God, the pain of knowing that she wasn’t going to answer…I tell anybody, you live and you will realize that life is real. If you live life and let it embrace you from the proper perspective, you’ll get the most out of life.
Heed Magazine: What is some advice you would give to aspiring singers who may be inspired by what you are doing?
Kim Burrell: Here it is. Mean what you’re doing! I don’t even care what it sounds like, just mean it! If it sincere and it’s the purest form of yourself it’s always going to be effective. Mean what you do. Let it be true, let it be honest, let it be fair. If it’s pain, let it be real! Please don’t fake your pain. I know pain and I can feel it. If everything you do is from a real, authentic, genuine place it is always going to work! Why do you think Martin Lawrence was so funny? He just came out with it, he was convincing and he said what everybody was thinking and that’s what works. Phony will never work. Phony always fails. Authenticity always works. I tell every singer practice, rehearse, and tape yourself. If you think you’re good enough to be on the radio, tape yourself singing and then turn on your favorite station and see if it can go on the same location. I’m old school right now! Mean what you gon’ do! They’ll talk about you, I deal with it every week! It’s all about being mature and embracing more than you’re perspective. It’s all about embracing life as a classroom. When you get to a place when you feel you can’t learn anymore, the stuff you think you know now is fake. You’ve got to learn and stay open to learn. If you’re closed minded and nobody is smart but you, I feel sorry for you. You can’t afford to be an adult and close yourself off to learning.
Heed Magazine: So many people have deemed you as the best voice in the world! And you know what, I’m going to agree with them…
Kim Burrell: [Laughs] Thanks honey.
Heed Magazine: How do you take those type of compliments?
Kim Burrell: It’s so amazing because they don’t know they’re bragging on God and not me. When they say “Kim Burrell has the most amazing voice in the world,” what they’re really saying is “God is the greatest giver!” I can’t even take credit for what I do! That is not me trying to be super humble; that is me being super honest! When I tell you this thing is all about God. As a kid, I was extremely shy to the point of being terrified. So, what I would do is imagine God sitting in front babysitting me while I was singing. But as I became an adult, I didn’t want him to leave that chair so the chair became something else. It began to represent my loyalty to Him. He went from my caretaker to my caregiver. He gave to me while I was standing there. He became my instructor. I began to see Him as the one who monitored my soul and my intent when I was singing. So My projection is to God, who gave me this gift. So, I can’t return it to Him less than the authentication that He gave it to me!
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